Archive for November, 2008

30th November
2008
written by JHiggins

The next SALC sponsored Tucson Town Hall event is scheduled for Dec. 3rd. It’s guaranteed to be an action packed conversation on Land Use planning in our region. Land use and zoning plans are where our government entities garner most of their power.  Board of Supes and various city councils can change peoples lives and make people a lot of money with the single vote.

Land planning choices impact our region and influence everything from Rio Nuevo to the Sonoran Desert Conservation plan to Oro Valley’s decison to annex the Arroyo Grande development. 

What we can learn from Portland -

Opinion by Sam Negri
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 08.12.2007
One of the least-known cottage industries in this very civilized city amounts to a tutoring clinic for other cities experiencing growing pains or merely having an identity crisis.
Portland’s leaders are considered national experts in the art of building a city that works. In the City of Roses, we are told, everything is rosy.
The reality is not as tidy as the illusion. Portland’s rebirth came only after a slow and painful incubation, but in recent years most cities are more impressed with the end result than with the contentious process that produced it.
Many of the groups come from cities like Tucson that have reached a population landmark and are faced with decisions about future growth.
Late last year, according to urban planners’ estimates, Pima County hit the 1 million mark.
Planners believe Pima County has enough private land to accommodate another million, depending on the availability of water.
While there are those who would like to lift the drawbridge and keep that second million from coming, Tucson’s historical growth patterns indicate that growth is inevitable.
Tucson leaders look ahead
How does Tucson prepare for it? Last week, about 50 Tucson-area residents representing business and the governments of Marana, Oro Valley, Pima County, Sahuarita and Tucson came here looking for clues. The trip was sponsored by Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities Inc., or TREO, the local economic-development agency.
The message they took home is remarkably basic: Civic engagement makes public policy work. Portland works because it had a leader that inspired consensus. Tucson has no equivalent.
It does, however, have some things going for it. As TREO president Joe Snell put it, “Tucson has amenities that Portland will never have.” The big one, in his view, is our proximity to Mexico and Southern California. It makes us a good choice for companies wanting to provide goods and services to those areas.
“Portland does a really good job of planning and recognizing that you need multiple pieces working together to make the whole place work,” but at a hefty price, Snell said.
Over the last three decades, the majority of Portland voters have approved taxes to finance the lifestyle they want. They boast that there is no sales tax in Portland, but Oregon residents pay a 9 percent personal income tax, third-highest in the nation and double Arizona’s rate. They also pay a mass transit tax and fees for almost everything you can think of.
Trust is key factor
Participants from the Tucson area to whom I spoke shook their heads and noted that in our area there was no possibility that large numbers of people would support higher taxes and fees to fund the multiple layers of government that keep a place like Portland functioning.
Nobody questions that Portland is a vibrant and attractive city that works. It has a well-run mass transit system with light rail and a modern streetcar, a downtown that once was on the ropes and is thriving, and a booming economy in which environmental sensitivity is an essential ingredient in all policy-making decisions.
But Portland, unlike Tucson, is the crown jewel of a progressive state government that is an extension of the local culture. And while some of Oregon’s private-property laws are as conservative as those in Arizona, there is widespread acceptance of the value of land-use planning. Portland voters accept that growth must be tightly controlled and always integrated with transportation systems, and that communities should exist in harmony with their surroundings.
They know that life in Utopia is not free.
Two factors separate Portland (and the rest of Oregon) from Tucson and Arizona: First, the population understands that everything comes with a price and they’ve voted to share that cost as a community. Second, there is a general acceptance that its politicians are in sync with the attitudes of their constituents and can be trusted to do the right thing. Maybe that’s why their council members get paid $94,000 a year and ours get $24,000.
That trust wasn’t always there. As Portland Metro Councilor Robert Liberty told me, “Oregonians have long been distrustful of government.” But, he noted, that began to shift in the 1970s. One of the keys to that shift was the emergence of a gifted and dynamic leader, former Portland mayor and Oregon governor Neil Goldschmidt, who had the talent to bring disparate groups together and focus them on a common goal. No such Moses has surfaced in Tucson.
In the Tucson region, public disengagement is more typical than engagement. As Tucson City Council member Shirley Scott observed, more often than not our residents come together to complain rather than to build.
Locally, the creation of a Regional Transportation Authority last year was one of the most dramatic reversals of that trend, and one that offers some hope that collaboration has not been completely expunged from the local vocabulary.
Portland residents are nearly evangelical in their zeal about creating habitable neighborhoods that are close to nature and close to the bus or streetcar. Oregon state law created an urban growth boundary around the city to separate it from the fertile farmland and rural communities at its periphery.
In addition to a city council, Portland has a metropolitan government that, among other things, directs the densities of suburbs within the urban growth boundary. The goal is to build communities where residents can find everything they need no more than 20 minutes from home, so that traffic congestion, air pollution and other urban problems are eliminated. That goal remains a work in progress. Rush-hour traffic is still a mess.
Redevelopment takes time
The closest innovation Arizona has to an urban growth boundary is Pima’s County’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, a blueprint for preserving wildlife habitat — and securing open spaces in the process — by buying up ranches at the edges of the Tucson metro region. That plan, the public policy decision with the most far-reaching implications for this region’s future, is still unfolding and may not be complete for another generation.
By Portland’s standards, a generation — typically 15 years — is not very long. Most of the redevelopment projects, the innovative land-use plans and mass-transit systems, took roughly 30 years to become a reality.
Any Portland politician will tell you the process is slow because community participation is required by law. The bottlenecks are built in, and respected.
Tucson City Planning Director Albert Elias, who was here last week, is convinced that the kind of civic engagement that brought Portland to the status of a model city will soon emerge in Tucson because local frustration is reaching a tipping point.
“The part that’s missing in Tucson,” Elias said, “is the confidence and trust that, as a community, a diverse group of leaders can get together to solve anything. But I’m confident we can do it and will do it because the stakes (of inaction) are getting higher.”
About this series
Pima County’s population surpassed the 1 million mark last November, planners estimate. This report is part of a monthly series running this year on the impacts of our population growth.
Today: What Tucson can learn from Portland, Ore.
On StarNet: Read the series at go.azstarnet.com/onemillion
Contact editorial writer Sam Negri at 573-4238 or snegri@azstarnet.com.
Click HERE
27th November
2008
written by JHiggins

26th November
2008
written by JHiggins

Forbes recently ran their 10 best and 10 worst cities for education. You’ll never guess what the cities at the top of the rankings have in common?  They have a major university that graduates thousands of fresh minds each year and they have industries that require brain power located in these communities creating jobs for graduates.

On the flip side the least educated communities (two of the top 10 are located here in AZ) suffer from low wages and high unemployment.

I am all for university spending. The UofA is a major economic engine in our community.  We’ve had some great wins including the Phoenix Mars project (a recently completed mission with a budget of $452 million that trickled in to our community and put us on the astrological map.) The problem I have is that the tax payers of Arizona are making major commitments to higher education but we are loosing our students in droves because there is no future for them here in Tucson.

Read the Forbes article – HERE.

The most-educated city in America: Boulder, Colo., home to the University of Colorado with high-tech employers like IBM  and Sun Microsystems  to keep alumni in the area after they graduate.

Other college cities topping the list are Ann Arbor, Mich., home to the University of Michigan; Charlottesville, Va., with the University of Virginia; Durham, N.C., with Duke University; and Fort-Collins, Colo., home to Colorado State.

University jobs, research parks and tech companies pay solid salaries. The average income for the 10 best-educated cities is $35,000. In the 10 least-educated cities, by contrast, the average income is $19,000.

The best-educated cities are some of the wealthiest, like the southern Connecticut metropolitan area. While home to the troubled city of Bridgeport, the surrounding suburbs are home to hedge funds and the well-to-do from New York. San Jose and San Francisco, among the wealthiest cities in the country, are also the fourth and fifth best-educated on this list.

The absence of education can leave a troubled region in deeper trouble. In Yuma, Ariz.–the sixth least-educated area in America–unemployment has soared above 20%, one of only two metropolitan areas in the country with so many jobless.

Is it the graduates that create the jobs, or the jobs that create the graduates? Durham, N.C., yields some clues. In the 1950s, universities and the government invested heavily to build a large research park to attract better jobs to the region. Over decades, the investment paid off richly, with the Research Triangle Park employing some 40,000 workers, many of them well-educated and high-paid, according to the Durham Chamber of Commerce.

Now for the rankings of the 10 worst -

No. 1 Lake Havasu, Ariz.*

Lake Havasu City-Kingman, Ariz., MSA

Adult population: 137,401
Bachelor’s degrees: 10,577 (8%)
Master’s degrees: 3,282 (2%)
Professional degrees: 791 (.6%)
Doctorates: 1,167 (.8%)

Lake Havasu City is perhaps best known as the site where, in the 1970s, the London Bridge was relocated after being disassembled piece by piece and transported across the Atlantic. As brilliant as the idea was, it didn’t take many diplomas to pull off. Barely 10% of the adults in the Lake Havasu metro area have a bachelor’s degree or more.

* Least educated.

No. 6 Yuma, Ariz.

Yuma, Ariz., MSA

Adult population: 117,204
Bachelor’s degrees: 9,879 (8%)
Master’s degrees: 4,704 (4%)
Professional degrees: 1,141 (1%)
Doctorates: 399 (.3%)

Not many college graduates settle in the border town of Yuma. The city’s crippling job shortage can’t help. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that in September, Yuma and El Centro, Calif., were the only two cities in the country with unemployment rates of more than 20%.

25th November
2008
written by madge

Some cities have non partisan elections like; L.A., Chicago, Houston and some have democratic elections like; Boston, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. Here in Arizona ALL cities EXCEPT Tucson have non-partisan elections. Even the 1 square mile city of South Tucson voted this past November to go non-partisan.

Tucson has been ruined over the past 40-plus years because of politics — bad politics. Individuals are elected to office with more loyalty to their political parties and personal ambitions than to the residents of their city, county or state. Politics creep in and affect our governments ability to fill pot holes and pick up garbage.

Back in late 1999 and early 2000′s a group of business and civic leaders came together to propose a ballot initiative to change the Tucson charter to implement NON-PARTISAN elections in the City.  Read The Weekly – HERE.  Long story short SALC took the lead  and put together a cast of characters to work on the charter changes. 

The big players are already in place. The Leadership Council’s members include attorney Si Schorr, land speculator Don Diamond, car dealers Jim Click and Buck O’Rielly, Realtor Hank Amos, real estate developer Joe Cesare, developer Roy Drachman, construction mogul Hal Ashton, AZ Mail Order king Paul Baker, attorney John Munger and Raytheon Missile Systems president Joe Coyle.

Johnston says that the proposed charter changes include:

· expanding the City Council wards from six to eight;

· providing the mayor the right to vote on issues before the Council, including the right to be counted for a quorum;

· replacing partisan elections for city offices with nonpartisan elections.

Easing the annexation of unincorporated areas into the city was also an implicit part of last year’s plan. Leadership Council board member Schorr pointed out in a July 7, 2000 guest editorial in the Arizona Daily Star that “increased wards allow for and encourage unincorporated areas near the city to consider annexation with the knowledge they can help form new city wards.”

Johnston recently acknowledged that facilitating annexation is still the main reason his group wants to implement changes to the charter.

Annexation remains a major priority of city officials, too. Andrew Greenhill, Walkup’s chief of staff, said the mayor last week asked Pima County’s state legislative delegation to consider a bill that would remove barriers to annexation.

Greenhill could not say what the mayor specifically had in mind when he put forward his ideas. Walkup was unavailable for comment. Without changes to current state law, a large-scale annexation could take years to accomplish.

Democratic mayor Volgy set out on a clear path to ensure that the party and the power would shift for the next twenty plus years. From a previous post on this blog:

The city’s anti-business movement “got legs” during the terms of Democratic mayors Tom Volgy (1987-91) and George Miller (1991-99). Both had won council seats in 1977.

“As no-growthers, they started to empower extremists and staff to follow their lead,” the SAHBA director said. “The people they hired decades ago are killing today’s redevelopment efforts. Many have moved up into policy-making positions with their negative attitudes toward progress.”

Regarding the conflicts of business versus neighborhoods, Volgy once said, “It’s hard for business groups to understand what the neighborhoods want, and vice versa. It’s very hard to put themselves in each other’s shoes.”

The way we elect our political leaders empowers party bosses and neighborhood activists at the expense of the public as a whole. Due to party enrollment and gerrymandered districts, few elections are competitive. Winning the Democratic primary is tantamount to election in Tucson. 

The unwritten water cooler talk in democratic circles is that any hope for future annexation of surrounding communities will be a challenge. It seems that Tucson Democrats are enjoying their blockbuster voter rolls. It’s a known fact that Tucson has a high democratic voter advantage and the surrounding communities of the Catalina Foothills and at one time Green Valley have  higher Republican party voter rolls. 

As long Tucson has a city full of die-hard yellow dog Democrats, who believe in FDR style government social collectivism with an unbreakable determination to maintain the status quo at any cost, and one of the highest percentages of government sector workers of any spot in the country, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

Rabid, frothing, vitriolic political partisanship in Tucson is part and parcel of the mess that the area has become. The Democratic Party and Organized Neighborhoods have been in bed together so long that both fear any separation.

Bottom up government as is being proposed by Jonathan Paton, not Top Down government that has destroyed the areas prosperity, is a real-life possibility for changing the landscape. But nobody seems to want to get out of their Lazy Boy, their Barstool or their bench at the Union Hall long enough to do anything about it.

It’s pathetic and sick and it breaks my heart.

 From National Civic League – Model City revisions on the Pros and Cons of non partisan elections:

Pros: Nonpartisan elections may be appropriate for most cities because they downplay partisan differences between candidates that do not necessarily match significant policy differences that are salient at the time of an election. In this sense, they avoid an unnecessary source of divisiveness in a community. As a result, voters can focus on candidates’ policy stands and problem-solving skills. It takes the focus off of party affiliation, and places it on what makes sense for the city. An incumbent mayor may be the target of the opposition party organization on the state level because he or she is a potential candidate for higher office, not because of the quality of performance in the mayor’s office. It can make it easier for members of minority parties to be elected. The ability to hold nonpartisan elections promotes local autonomy since the outcome of local elections is less likely to be determined by national or state political current, and it demonstrates that city politics differ substantially from state politics.

Partisan differences may be relevant to local policy decisions, e.g., positions on privatization and tax cuts at the local level may correspond to party differences, and nonpartisan elections can be the venue of efforts to mobilize party supporters. These efforts are less likely to have substantial impact when the partisan connection is weak. When elections are partisan, however, parties will be structurally connected to local elections regardless of relevance. A consequence of partisan elections is that candidates run first in party primaries with the winners facing each other in the general election. If one party with a substantial majority has more than one strong candidate, only one will survive to be considered by all the voters (including unaffiliated voters) in the general election, which typically receives far more media attention and a larger voter turnout. In nonpartisan elections, the top two vote getters in the primary, regardless of party affiliation, would be the candidates in the general election.

In sum, there can be advantages to party involvement in elections, but the institution of partisan elections requires that party always be the dominant feature in city campaigns. City governments should recognize that nonpartisan elections can depress voter turnout among voters with lower socio-economic status and take other measures to encourage voter participation and citizen participation generally.

Cons:Nevertheless, partisan elections have advantages. Partisanship is part of politics even when not officially recognized. Parties can help candidates run better campaigns. Party affiliation conveys information to voters, who for the most part do not have time to evaluate the effectiveness or distinguish the claims of each candidate. This is especially important for voters who without a party cue would be less likely to identify their stakes in the outcome of an election. Partisan elections offset the overrepresentation of minority parties. Finally, partisan elections can assist voters of lower socio-economic status. The mobilization efforts of parties offset the informational and resource disadvantages of poorer, less educated voters who are less likely to identify with organizations other than political parties that might work to promote turnout.

 

From National League of Cities – HERE

Election systems in American cities are determined by the nature of the council members’ constituency (See Local Elections) and by the presence or absence of party labels on the ballot.  With regard to the second feature, there are two types of ballots for city council members.  In partisan elections, the party affiliation of the candidate is indicated on the ballot, whereas in nonpartisan elections it is not. 

According to a 2001 survey,  77% of the responding cities have nonpartisan elections, and 23% have partisan elections.  (See Form of Government and Type of Election in 30 Largest Cities)

Proponents of nonpartisan ballots suggest that:

  • political parties are irrelevant to providing services; experts and professionals should determine the service needs of the constituents.

Proponents for partisan elections argue that:

  • Absence of party labels confuses voters; a voter who must choose from among a group of candidates who he or she knows nothing about will have no meaningful basis in casting a ballot;
  • In absence of party ballot, voters will turn to whatever cue is available, and often this cue turns out to be the ethnicity of a candidate’s name;
  • Non-partisanship tends to produce elected officials more representative of the upper socioeconomic strata than of the general populace and aggravate the class bias in voting turnout, namely because in true non-partisan systems there are no organizations of local party workers to bring lower-class citizens to the polls on election day; and
  • Non-partisanship destroys resources important to coalition building and effective governance.
24th November
2008
written by Mike

Grijalva is being vetted as our Nations next Secretary of Interior. He would be the third Sec. of Interior from Arizona, following in the footsteps of Bruce Babbitt and Morris Udall.  Both Babbitt and Udall made lasting impacts on the west as will Grijalva.

There is no question that George Bush took us in a decidedly anti environmental direction. Grijalva will change that.

The largest land owners in Arizona are governmental agencies. In Pima County only 14% of the county is in private hands. Attempts at State land reforms by the legislature or by the initiative process have fallen short. Pima County voters have approved $220+ million for open space purchases and another $250 million will be put in front of the voters in the near future. There is not doubt that the momentum is there to protect the desert and the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (SDCP) is a road map on how to do that.

Should Grijalva be selected the SDCP will get a huge leg up. The property owners of Pima County will benefit in the form of not having to continue the bonding process. If Grijalva can wave the Obama administrative wand and change federal land policy and potentially influence the State of Arizona’s policies we could see major tracts of land set aside at virtually no cost to Pima County tax payers. I know it’s a stretch but there are cause and effects around the decision. From the Tucson Citizen – HERE.

Environmental leaders were thrilled at the prospect of Grijalva assuming the secretariat. Mining, ranching and other land-use industry representatives expressed dismay.

“Talk about a 180 from where we are today,” said Richard Mayol, communications director at the Grand Canyon Trust. “That is certainly something that we would love to get behind, something we would cheer.”

He has long been regarded as an environmental advocate, leading efforts to regulate hard-rock mining and establish a National Landscape Conservation System. He recently told The Arizona Republic that Bush’s administration sold away public resources to private interests, performing “more like real-estate agents than stewards of (public) lands.”

24th November
2008
written by JHiggins

From the Arizona Daily Star Sunday Greg Hansen column:

For 59 minutes Saturday it was great theater played before 48,503 fans and 10,000 empty seats. The Beavers were playing to preserve an opportunity to go to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the Dark Ages, and the Wildcats were playing to prove that they had evolved from a scrambling mediocrity to a dead-on, prime-time bowl game TV slot against someone from the big leagues.

 

“I’ve got no problem with the way the kids played tonight,” said Stoops. “But we’re still in the process.”

 

It is the same sort of process shown by Rio Nuevo, isn’t it? A lot of chatter. A very slow process.

Tags:
24th November
2008
written by JHiggins

Read Emerines article HERE

By Steve Emerine
Inside Tucson Business
November 22, 2008

23rd November
2008
written by Arizona Kid

Donald Diamond said last week.

2009 you need to hunker down and preserve cash
2010 you should be able to take off the oxygen mask – and start breathing again
2011 you will pass a kidney stone – and it won’t hurt as much

20th November
2008
written by JHiggins

Developer’s good deeds go punished

Clint Bolick

Goldwater Institute Daily Email
November 20, 2008

In any other city, Mike Goodman would be hailed as a visionary of “smart growth.” He buys dilapidated properties near Tucson’s downtown core and the University of Arizona and replaces them with upscale higher-density housing that meets or exceeds zoning requirements and building standards. The developments increase property values and help alleviate the shortage of student housing.
 
But the City of Tucson is so ideologically anti-development that it stymies Goodman and other developers by all of the considerable means at its disposal.
 
The latest is an anti-demolition statute that imposes a massive bureaucratic process throughout the “historic” central core. Where previously demolition permits were issued as a matter of course, property owners now must navigate a labyrinth of reviews and approvals, subject to the most nebulous and subjective of standards. At the end of the process, the City may purchase the property or “arrange” for its purchase-subject to no standards or conditions whatsoever.
 
The anti-demolition ordinance instantly reduced property rights and values for thousands of property owners. A state court struck the law down because it was enacted as part of the city’s building code rather than the zoning code where it belongs. The city may appeal that decision or re-adopt the ordinance as part of the zoning code.
 
Meanwhile, the Goldwater Institute litigation center has taken up Goodman’s cause, challenging the law as a violation of due process and Proposition 207, the Private Property Rights Protection Act, which requires compensation when regulations diminish property rights and values. The suit could produce a major Prop. 207 precedent that would make cities think twice before enacting sweeping regulations of private property. If so, it will be only the latest instance in which a government’s overreaching leads to a precedent that tightens the reins on grassroots tyranny.

Clint Bolick is the director of the Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.
 
Learn more: 

Goldwater Institute: “Playing the Takings Game: How Government Regulates Away Property Rights
Arizona Daily Star: “Building restrictions may face court test
Goldwater Institute: “Protecting private property rights will not disrupt normal land use planning

20th November
2008
written by Arizona Kid

I sure hope you take the time to read the AZ Star’s online version of the daily news. I’m not sure if the comments on the articles are a true representation of public sentiment or the ramblings of a vocal minority but either way sometimes the comments are the best part.

With a little embelishing the following comment on the Westin La Paloma defaulting on a loan payment is pretty much spot on. Canvas bags, Tiger Woods and a buck for a bus.

Pretty much hits them all.

 

17. Comment by Morgan L. (csgow) — November 19,2008 @ 8:18AM

Ratings:   -4 +27

So we have mall owners and resort owners going belly up, and big retailers closing up shop. Spring training is gone, and the University just raised tuition again. Downtown is stuck in political hell. The mines are laying off, so are the casinos, and even the call centers are letting people go.

We should start putting up billboards advertising Tucson as the biggest ghost town in the west. Now while we can still afford them.

Report this comment

 

Let’s add; mines are laying off over 700 in AZ, Beaudry RV went bk, commercial vacancy is way up, the gem show is quietly moving some large exhibitions to Vegas, Tiger won’t be here to save the match play, the pot holes are getting bigger, the murder rate broke a record at 73, Rio Nuevo spent $73m so far – for what, the county is going to propose a $500m bond with another $250m for open space, the RTA is stuck in neutral, airlines are fleeing Tucson International, Sun Tran bus fares are still at $1, Pima County has the highest property tax rate in the state, we still don’t have a plan for an arena or convention hotel downtown, our high school drop out rate is through the roof, and a partridge in a pair tree.

 

And what are our leaders doing:

SALC is holding another town hall,

Uhlich is trying to tax all home transfers to create low income housing,

Leal calls for Hein’s head then wants to give him a raise, then suggest a new tax on Joe 6 pack’s….6pack.

Trasoff wants to close all inner city businesses due their inability to obtain a CofO.

Glassman is handing out canvas bags and collecting rain water.

Pima County can’t be in the same room with Marana.

Oro Valley jumped on board the Sonoran Desert Conservation bandwagon, and all building stopped.

The local newspapers are running a blanket endorsement to ALL current elected officials on the editorial page then beat them up on in section B.

Neighborhoods demand infill development to avoid regional sprawl just not in their back yard.

The bureaucrats are convinced that if they make things tough enough on growth will stop coming. Hasn’t worked in 50 years but they keep trying.

Enviros are searching for another turtle, or squirrel or owl or snake or bottle nosed – ridge-back – yellow tailed hush puppy,  to add to the endangered species list.

Enough for now.

 

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